An estimated 26,000 acres around railway stations in Greater Manchester could be developed if there was “modest reform to the Green Belt”, according to Centre for Cities.
The think tank’s “Where can we build new homes” report argues that Green Belt reform would allow more than two million homes to be built within 45 minutes by rail to major UK city centres.
To compile its report, Centre for Cities excluded all Green Belt land classed as sites of special scientific interest, areas of outstanding beauty, national parks and other sites of special value. It also excluded all commuter stations inside urban Green Belt boundaries by more than 800 metres.
“For each commuter station, there is a total area for land within 800 metres which is currently classified as arable or horticulture, woodland, or grassland that is not otherwise protected,” the report said.
The areas in Greater Manchester, or adjacent to the City Region with connectivity to Manchester, with the highest potential for such development are:
- Mobberly: 455 acres in total, with 54-acres on arable and horticultural land, 353-acres on grasslands, and 48-acres on woodland
- Ashley: 447 acres in, with 247-acres on arable and horticultural land, 185-acres on grasslands, and 16-acres on woodland
- Goostrey: 445 acres in total, with 216-acres on arable and horticultural land, 219-acres on grasslands, and 10-acres on woodland
- Adlington, Cheshire: 442 acres in total, with 17-acres on arable and horticultural land, 333-acres on grasslands, and 92-acres on woodland
- Strines: 440 acres in total, with 3-acres on arable and horticultural land, 334-acres on grasslands, and 103-acres on woodland
- Acton Bridge: 400 acres in total, with 106-acres on arable and horticultural land, 319-acres on grasslands, and 15-acres on woodland
The six areas with no potential for Green Belt release are Burnage, Burton Road, Crumpsall, Failsworth, Humphrey Park and Oldham Mumps.
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “We often talk about the need to build 300,000 new homes a year to tackle the housing crisis. But less often do we talk about where in the country these homes need to be built to make a difference.
“Housing provision should follow where people need to live for work. This means building in and around larger cities with lots of jobs. Using existing commuter infrastructure as base to deliver accessible new homes near our biggest cities could be the simplest way to do this; but it will require political will and compromise on the Green Belt.”
The North West has seen a loss in designated Green Belt land of 3,410 acres over the past year, according to the Government’s latest Green Belt report.
The majority of losses came from a combined area of Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire, which lost a total of 3,237 acres between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years. This represented the second largest loss in the area in the past decade, after Green Belt land across those areas shrunk by 11,787 acres between 2016 and 2017.
Green Belt land is intended to check unrestricted sprawl of large, built-up areas, protect the countryside, and aid urban regeneration by prioritising development on brownfield sites, among other aims. “The Government attaches great importance to Green Belts,” the Local Planning Authority Green Belt: England 2018/19 report, published in October, said.
“The fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.”
However, the pressure of delivering housing targets has prompted some local authorities to review their Green Belt sites and include them in development plans.
Centre for Cities’ Carter said: “So far, politicians from all parties have been reluctant to address [this controversial issue] through planning reform and this reluctance stands as the biggest barrier to change.”
“If these new homes are delivered close to where they are needed near big cities then they will have access to workers to grow their economies and raise local productivity. But if we continue to stall on this, then our biggest cities, and the millions of people living in them, will soon pay a big economic price.”
To access the report, click here.